Talking about sex, religion, or politics is usually a no, no unless you're a vicar or a politician. Remember that the aim of any initial conversation is simply to open it and use it as an opportunity to find out things you have in common. Divisive threads of conversation may give you an opportunity to show off your debating prowess, but whether the other person still wants to speak to you when you've beaten them into submission with your interpretation of the socioeconomic reasons behind the recession, is another matter.
Date or inquisition?
Mark joined a dating agency and was struggling to get past the first date with the women on the books. The agency staff tried to help him perfect his technique. He seemed to be doing everything right and his topics of conversation were well researched and interesting, but they realised that his delivery was ruining his chances. He'd memorised things to talk about so that he didn't run dry, but introduced topics in a series of closed questions. His dates felt like they were being interrogated.
Mark changed his approach. He stuck with the same topics of conversation but used open questions to introduce them. Instead of the conversation running dry and his dates becoming defensive, these questions opened up other avenues of conversation. He became more confident at conversing with women and second dates soon followed. Mark also began using open questions at work and found building rapport with his colleagues much easier.
Use open questions whenever possible to build great rapport.
Divert the conversation away from contentious topics by simply saying, 'That's really interesting, but I never talk about sex/ religion/politics before midnight.' Follow up this line with something light-hearted, possibly related to a topic you've seen on the news, for example 'Talking of current affairs, what do you think of Tony Blair's nose job?'
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